Here’s a little tidbit about car and train safety: don’t drive onto tracks if you aren’t prepared to get off them when the time (i.e. a giant train) comes along. No, this isn’t a first-person cautionary tale about Uncle F@*k-Up, this time I got to be the witness.
Last night I sat at a traffic light behind one other car. It was dark and a warm evening, the car was full of groceries, my mind empty of just about everything. The traffic signal is at an intersection where a trolley line runs parallel with the main road so you don’t pull right up to the intersection, you stay back at the well-marked lines indicated RR CROSSING. At the red light the car ahead of me inched forward until they were straddling the tracks, waiting for the light to turn green. Not in itself an idiotic move but remember my warning above: be prepared to move. DING DING DING! The bells signaled a train was coming and the candy-cane striped barriers began to swing down like a slow guillotine. The car ahead put it into reverse and doesn’t move. The barriers came down behind the car but there is no barrier directly ahead of the car–it could drive forward into the intersection. In a stroke of brilliance, the traffic engineers even hooked up the traffic light to the barriers so there’s a five-second green light so you can clear the tracks if you parked on them like an idiot. Five…four…three…two…one…the car shifts out of reverse but doesn’t go through the green light. Now the light is red , the barriers are down, the bells dinging, and a trio of headlights from an oncoming trolley are growing in the distance.
“What are you doing? Go. Pull forward. Pull forward, you idiot. Go! GO!” My in-car narrative failed to reach the other car and I wondered if I should beep or get out and drag the driver from their seat before the car was transformed into a flaming snarl of wreckage wrapped around the prow of the oncoming train. A second passed, then another. I noticed the car didn’t have its lights on though it’s full-0n nighttime. Two thoughts: confused stoner or confused senior? More seconds pass. The train honks its horn.
With the sedate pace of an elderly man reaching to the ground for a dropped penny the car made a right turn from the left lane, headlights off, and left the tracks a few seconds before the trolley blasted by with a buffet of wind. This being Southern California, it’s entirely possible the driver never had any idea that A)they were on train tracks, B) the clanging bells and barriers with flashing red lights were for their benefit, and C) they missed being a really fantastic video on my phone by just a few seconds. But for a few seconds I was THIS close to getting a picture like the one below. Is it me or is that guy in the vest ridiculously close? Ever heard of a telephoto lens, pal?